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Dog Shampoo: Does It Expire?

By Aviram K.
Published in Training & Behavior
October 13, 2021
5 min read
Dog Shampoo: Does It Expire?
✏️ This article has been reviewed in accordance with our editorial policy.
🏥 The information in this article is not a substitute for professional help.
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When you think of a “good hair day”, what vision comes to your mind?

Shiny, luscious locks?

Strands that radiate as the sunlight bounces off of them?

A beautiful, frizz-free mane that seems to possess never-ending volume yet somehow remains perfectly under control?

It’s no secret your hair can have a massive effect on your day.

And by default, your life.

But what about your pup’s hair?

Your dog may have far less to say about what’s going on with their hair, but nonetheless, the way they are groomed can have a significant impact on them.

For your dog to look and feel their best, it is key that their grooming is in check and a big part of this includes their hair.

And perhaps the most crucial part of your dog’s hair care routine is the shampoo you use on them.

You may be thinking, “OK, that’s simple enough!”

But is it?

It’s important to note that dog shampoo is much different than human shampoo.

So…how long does dog shampoo last? And can’t I just use human shampoo?

Generally, unopened dog shampoo has a shelf-life of about 3 years. However, a dog shampoo that has already been opened should last around 18 months. Only use unexpired dog shampoo, and never use human shampoo on your dog. This is because dogs have different skin pH balance needs than humans.

In this article, I will explore the shelf-life of both opened and unopened dog shampoo.

I will provide you with easy ways to test if your dog shampoo is still good, and I will answer whether human shampoo can be used for dogs.

Finally, I will wrap things up by recommending a few dog shampoos for you to try on your pup.

Ready to get to the nitty-gritty of all things dog shampoo?

Let’s jump in!

Table of Contents
How Long Does Dog Shampoo Last?
Does Unopened Dog Shampoo Expire?
How Do You Know If Dog Shampoo Is Expired?
Is Human Shampoo OK for Dogs?
What Are Some Good Dog Shampoos?
Congratulations, You’ve Just Graduated Doggy-Cosmetology 101!

How Long Does Dog Shampoo Last?


Dog shampoo lasts around 18 months. This timetable is average and can be shorter if your pup’s shampoo is more natural. Fewer artificial ingredients and preservatives mean fewer chances your dog’s skin will be irritated by shampoo. However, natural shampoos are also more likely to expire earlier than their chemical-laden counterparts.

The fewer ingredients your pet’s shampoo has, the more important it is to keep an eye on any changes with the shampoo.

Any noticeable differences in color, consistency, and effectiveness are all signs that your dog’s shampoo may be close to expiring…or that it may have already expired.

Does Unopened Dog Shampoo Expire?

But what if your dog shampoo is yet to be opened…can it still expire?

The answer is yes!

Unopened shampoo has a shelf-life of around 3 years. This is true even if your shampoo has been stored in a dry area at room temperature. However, the active ingredients in your shampoo begin to degrade over time, so even if you try to use it, you likely won’t like the way it performs.

How Do You Know If Dog Shampoo Is Expired?


The easiest way to know if dog shampoo has expired is to check the bottle. This may sound like a no-brainer, but it can be easy to overlook this obvious step. Sometimes it can feel like you “just bought” something only to discover that you may have actually bought it months or even years ago. Time flies!

So, where and how do you check a dog shampoo bottle to see if it has expired?

Sometimes expiration dates may be printed on the shampoo bottle, similar to how they would be on food. Good places to look are usually the lower half of the bottle and, often, its bottom.

Other times, there is no expiration date visible on the bottle.

What to do?

I recommend checking the bottle for a specific symbol that looks like a little jar with its top open. This is the manufacturer’s suggested “use by once opened” symbol.

If you are able to locate this little jar symbol, you will see that there is a number inside the jar, along with an “M.” The “M” stands for “months”, and the number next to the “M” is how many months the product will last after it has been opened.

What if there is no date and no estimated months listed on the shampoo bottle?

In this instance, you will just have to use your best judgment. You can employ your senses to see if anything seems different or off about your pup’s shampoo. If you’ve used this particular shampoo before, you can probably tell if there’s anything out of the ordinary.

Check it out and see:

  • Does it smell funny?
  • Is the color lighter or darker than usual?
  • Is the texture clumpy, chunky, runny, or gloopy?
  • Does it seem like it’s not cleaning your pet as well as it usually does?

Even if you’ve never used a specific shampoo before, you can likely tell if there’s something not quite right about it.

A good shampoo should have a rich, smooth and luxurious texture without being too thin or unmanageably thick. It should smell pleasant, in a way that you would like your dog to smell.

Some medicated shampoos may have a strong scent to them, but they shouldn’t smell rancid or make you feel nauseous once you get a strong whiff of them.

Is Human Shampoo OK for Dogs?


Dogs can be so much like us in so many ways that it can be easy to forget that they are still very different! This being said, shampoos that are used for humans should not be used on dogs.

This distinction is due mainly to the difference in the pH balance of a dog’s skin vs. human skin. Human skin pH range is within 5.2-6.2 and doggy skin has a pH of 5.5-7.5.

Shampoos are specifically formulated to work best with certain ph levels. Anything too high or too low can wreak havoc on your pup’s delicate skin.

Using a shampoo not meant for your dog can cause their skin to become irritated and do more harm than good.

But sometimes, life happens.

If you’re in a true pinch and have no dog shampoo on hand, there are a few human alternatives that are relatively safe to use on your pup. However, I strongly recommend doing a spot test first to ensure your dog doesn’t have an adverse reaction.

A few emergency pup-safe-poo options include:

  • Shampoo formulated for babies
  • Dove brand shampoo products
  • Palmolive soap
  • Head and Shoulders (*reserve this for extreme emergencies as it can potentially be very drying)

What Are Some Good Dog Shampoos?


Now that you know what shampoo not to use on your pup, let’s explore a couple of excellent shampoos that you can try on your dog!

For a fresh and paraben-free washing experience, I recommend TropiClean Shampoo. This pleasant, fruity shampoo produces a generous, natural lather and will leave your pup smelling of papaya-coconutty goodness!

If your dog is prone to allergies, check out K9 Pro Aloe and Oatmeal Cucumber Melon Shampoo. This anti-itch and tear-free shampoo is mild enough for dogs with more sensitive skin.

For a moisturizing and gentle clean, give Paw and Pals Oatmeal Dog Shampoo a try. This wholesome shampoo is formulated with clinical oatmeal, free of BPA, sulfates, synthetic dyes, mineral oil, and parabens.

Congratulations, You’ve Just Graduated Doggy-Cosmetology 101!


As important as your hair is to you, your pup’s hair is pretty important too!

Now you know the basics of dog shampoo and the importance of using products that are not expired and formulated especially for your pup.

Maybe you’re even feeling adventurous enough to try a few of the shampoos I’ve listed.

Wherever your unique doggy hair care journey takes you, you are well on your way to ensuring that your pup’s hair stays healthy and manageable for life!

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